DNC Headed to Charlotte

Erik Spanberg

Charlotte Business Journal

Feb 1, 2011

"Hot damn, wasn't that good news?"

With that, one of the city's most prominent Democrats and business leaders, Cammie Harris, made it official: the 2012 Democratic National Convention is coming to Charlotte.

Harris and a slew of political and business leaders crowed over the selection during a celebratory press conference at the Charlotte Chamber this afternoon.

Charlotte beat out fellow finalists St. Louis, Cleveland and Minneapolis to win the convention, expected to generate $150 million to $200 million in economic impact. Mayor Anthony Foxx and Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers led the successful bid to woo the Democrats for a convention that will re-nominate President Barack Obama.

Time Warner Cable Arena, home to the NBA Charlotte Bobcats, will be the site of most of the convention's major activities.

The news came a day after philanthropists disclosed plans to invest $55 million in private money to bolster the local school system. Mayor Anthony Foxx began his remarks by saying, "I can't wait for Wednesday."

Foxx called Charlotte's successful bid a testament to decades of investing in the city, from Charlotte Douglas International Airport to growth in the center city and beyond. He learned of the Democrats' selection Tuesday morning in a phone call from Tim Kaine, the chairman of the party and a former Virginia governor.

"We will have the best Democratic convention in the history of Democratic conventions — in Charlotte," Foxx said.

The mayor pointed to his co-chair, Rogers, as a key player, describing him as "one of the most tenacious, competitive, we-will-not-lose folks along the way with this effort."

Rogers vowed to raise the $40 million to $50 million in private donations from all over the country to pay for the convention. Since this will be the first national political convention ever staged in Charlotte or North Carolina — and the first for Democrats in the South since 1988 in Atlanta — it takes on greater significance, Rogers said.

Referring to the national party leaders who chose Charlotte, Rogers said, "Our deepest thanks. We will make you proud."

A flurry of congratulatory statements followed news of the convention coming to Charlotte.

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, a Democrat from Greensboro, said, “I am thrilled that Charlotte has been picked to host the Democratic National Convention in 2012. The economic impact of the convention will be a terrific boost for the many businesses, restaurants, stores and hotels in Charlotte. Once visitors see everything we’ve got going on, I know it will promote tourism to the region in the future."

Denver hosted the Democrats in 2008 and credited the event with an economic impact of $266 million. Tampa Bay is hosting the Republican National Convention next year.

The countdown begins for the city's biggest national moment in 19 months. Members of the Democratic National Committee arrived this afternoon in Charlotte to begin preparations. Kaine and other party leaders will tour the uptown arena on Wednesday as part of the advance work that will continue through 2012.

"We obviously have a lot of working together to do," Foxx said. "Now that we are married, so to speak, we need to introduce ourselves to each other."

The convention begins Sept. 3 and includes a blitz of reporters and TV networks telling the story of the presidential campaign. An estimated 30,000 to 35,000 delegates will attend. Rogers envisions an Olympic Village for uptown during the convention.

Charlotte hosted the NCAA men's Final Four in 1994. Hotels can expect to reap major rewards from the convention, particularly those in and around uptown.

N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue, who, like Foxx, is a Democrat, said in prepared remarks that "today's decision is fantastic news for North Carolina regardless of your political party." Republican political leaders in the state have also supported the bid, including former Mayor Richard Vinroot and former Gov. Jim Martin.

In 2008, Obama won North Carolina, the first time a Democrat had carried the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976. North Carolina has 15 electoral votes. The ticket of Obama and Joe Biden won Mecklenburg County with 62% of the vote in 2008.

While Charlotte's mayor and North Carolina's governor are both Democrats, Republicans took control of the state legislature in the November elections. That victory gave the GOP majorities in the N.C. General Assembly for the first time in more than a century.

Harris and other backers bypassed partisanship in favor of civic pride. Or, as Rogers put it, "We're getting our mojo back!"

On Obama's website, he billed the 2012 convention "the people's convention."

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